More than 20 years after the war in kosovo, kosovan president hashim thaci’s past has caught up with him.
The former commander of the underground KLA resigned from office after learning that the kosovo special tribunal in the hague had upheld an indictment against him for alleged war crimes. His duties were taken over by parliamentary president vjosa osmani of the ruling LDK (democratic league of kosovo) party.
"In order to protect the integrity of the state, i am resigning today," thaci said at a press conference in the capital pristina. He added that he felt proud of the responsibility he had borne. He then went to the headquarters of the EU justice mission eulex to arrange his transfer to the tribunal in the hague.
Thaci arrived in the hague late that evening and was taken into custody, as the court in the hague confirmed. Three other defendants were also arrested at the same time as him and handed over to the court.
The special court also published the indictment. Thaci and the leader of the presidential party PDK (democratic party of kosovo), kadri veseli, as well as the defendants rexhep selimi and jakup krasniqi, are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Thaci had been the supreme commander of the kosovo albanian KLA during the 1998-1999 war of independence. The prosecutor’s office of the special tribunal had already filed preliminary charges against him and several other former KLA commanders last june. Shortly before, the leader of the presidential party, veseli, had also announced that the charges against him had been confirmed.
The preliminary indictment filed in june charged the politician with ten counts of serious crimes, including murder, persecution and torture. Hundreds of kosovo albanians, serbs, roma and members of other ethnic groups, as well as political opponents, were among the victims, according to the indictment.
Thaci’s departure marks the departure of a politician and militarist who has shaped kosovo’s political scene like no other. He commanded the KLA, which fought against the serbian security forces in the war of independence. After NATO intervention, this led to the secession of the former province of south serbia, inhabited mainly by albanians, from serbia.
From 2008 to 2014, thaci was the first prime minister of kosovo, which has been independent since 2008, and head of state since 2016. As founder and chairman of the KLA’s successor party, the PDK, he had considerable influence over various coalition governments, even when he was not head of government.
According to critics, his political activities have deepened and perpetuated the problems in the youngest balkan state. He has repeatedly been accused of being close to organized crime, nepotism and corruption. Kosovo’s modernization and economic recovery have repeatedly reached the limits of the corrupt and criminal structures that thaci and other politicians from the former KLA created and maintained, critics say.
The special tribunal began its work in 2015 and is formally part of the kosovo judiciary. However, it was established in the hague under international pressure to prosecute crimes committed by the kosovo albanian side during and in the aftermath of the kosovo war of independence. In the war there were more than 10.000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Serbian security forces account for most casualties. The UN’s international criminal tribunal for yugoslavia (ICTY) in the hague dealt with the crimes committed by serbian politicians and militaries.